Saturday, February 4, 2012

Report: the end of 3rd development age

Year 2012 started with a new vision over technologies I want to use in order to achieve the same old goals. The 3rd age of my personal projects lasted for 2.5 years and is over now. I'd like to make a small overview over what is going to left in the past, and what are my new friends in the nearest future.

Boo, the dinosaur of the old age.
The major fault of Boo for me was its immaturity. Imagine developing a killer feature in your project and then getting "unknown compiler exception" after you changed tons of code without being able to compile. Next thing you do is spending a day in narrowing down the issue, providing the test case for the bug, and then the next day trying to work around it, "temporarily". That's the time you could spent doing something important for you, not for the language creator and community. I tried to patch the imperfections of generics implementation with smart AST macroses, and it was indeed fun.

The other faults come from the Boo main platform - .Net/Mono. I've met some serious inconsistencies and ambiguities there. For example, OOP polymorphism can be achieved in two ways: using virtual methods or via implicit interface implementations. I had to use both, because this is how platform is set up.

Portability was the last major issue. While you could safely copy binaries on Linux/MacOS and try to execute them, this didn't work smooth in practice, not to mention that tablets/phones where completely out of scope. Errors about some library of some version not being found on a target platform drived me crazy.

I still like it and will continue to use it in a Unity-based project. Working with Boo was an important stage in my professional growth, but it's time to move forward now.

Dart + WebGL, the ultimate portability solution.
OpenGL is developing too quickly for me. It's difficult to constantly adapt to new features and redesign the system. WebGL is much more stable. It can potentially work on any platform, without any platform-specific client code. Back in C times I could provide sources for you to build them locally and execute. In Net/Mono/Java times I could provide binaries that are likely to just work. In Web times I just give you the link...

The 4th iteration of KRI engine will be developed from scratch to work on WebGL. Everyone would be able to instantly see the result of my efforts without setting up any development environment. I've got much more experience now, worked with 3 different mature engines. I have a clear understanding of the goals and principles upon which the new engine structure should be built. Besides, the philosophy of not doing anything heavy on CPU and generating as much as possible fits WebGL very nicely.

Dart comes as a perfect replacement for JavaScript here. Cleaner code, better OOP and FP integration, and finally the opportunity to be in the first wave of new WebGL applications. I can't imagine doing anything serious with JS, and I like Dart very much so far.

Haskell, the global paradigm shift.
Meeting Functional Programming changed my mind, and I'll never be the same again. No, I'm not going to stop using imperative languages, but the way I look at the code is very different today. Haskell experience helped me to develop a vision of really clean and error-less code. For each piece of logic now I prefer to know exactly the input data and the result, removing all implicit and hidden flows. For example, any singleton or a static piece of data I consider dangerous.

Haskell is now the language of my AI experiments. While still learning, now I think on a higher level of abstraction, which simplifies the development and allows to concentrate on ideas more than on tools.

Learning new principles is very beneficial. It's not just about new abilities, it's also about looking at old things under very different perspective. I've had a lot of fun with OpenGL-3 and Boo, they were a real step forward comparing to the my C/C++ only 2nd age. But even more fun waits ahead. New development principles, that I'll cary through the 4th age, are very promising, and I'll do my best to realize their potential in full.